What is mental health?

What is Mental Health? 

Next week, 8th – 14th May, is Mental Health Awareness Week 2017 and this year’s theme is “Surviving or Thriving?”.

We often think  about mental health (also referred to as mental wellbeing) and mental illness as being the same thing. And whilst there is an obvious link they are different.

Therefore, I want to take the opportunity to go back to basics and explain what mental health is, how it’s different to mental illness and mention some simple ways you can improve your own wellbeing.

In the spirit of this year’s theme, I also want to take a positive focus on promoting better mental health and encourage individuals and employers to take positive steps to improve mental health and wellbeing for themselves (you!) and their organisations.

So what do we mean by mental health? 

There are various definitions promoted by different organisations, but the World Health Organisation (WHO) defines mental health as:

A state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.

Furthermore, the positive dimension of mental health is also stressed in WHO’s definition of health: “Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”

The fact is we all have mental health and being mentally healthy is about several things: how we feel about ourselves and others, our self esteem and confidence, our relationships with others, and our resilience in having the strength to overcome the difficulties and challenges we can all face in our lives, to have self worth and believe in ourselves.

What is mental illness? 

A mental illness or mental health problem can broadly be defined as a condition which causes serious emotional distress or disorder in a person’s behaviour or thinking. Examples of common mental health problems include depression, anxiety disorders, eating disorders, and addictive or compulsive behaviours.

In fact, depression is now officially recognised as the world’s largest health problem, affecting more than 300 million people globally.

With one in four of us likely to experience a mental health problem at some point in our lives, the reality is that mental health problems are a very common human experience and so should be seen and considered in the same was a physical health problems and not treated with fear or stigma.

What can you do to improve your mental health and that of your employees? 

The good news is there are lots of simple, free or low cost ways you can improve your own wellbeing and that of your employees.

For example, Mind has produced a free relaxation guide which includes some useful tips and exercises you can use to help you relax and reduce stress. Click here.

The Five Ways to Wellbeing is another great tool to improve your overall wellbeing. Think of the five ways as your mental health equivalent to the ‘five a day’ recommendation for eating fruit and vegetables. You can download our Five Ways to Wellbeing leaflet here.

If you’re an employer, why not share these guides with your employees?

I hope you’ve found this short article helpful? If so, please share it and I would encourage you to use Mental Health Awareness Week as the opportunity to make a commitment to improve mental health and wellbeing for yourself and your organisation.  It’s good to talk so start the conversation about mental health.

Give me a shout if you would like some information, help or advice on workplace wellbeing. Tel: 01384 442938 or email mark.evans@dudleymind.org.uk

Why not come to our free workplace wellbeing event on 15 June in Wolverhampton where we’ll be talking about Mental Health First Aid? Book your place here.

By Mark Evans, 5 May 2017.

#mentalhealth #wellbeing #MHAW2017